Title: Microbial extracellular polysaccharide production and aggregate stability controlled by switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) root biomass and soil water potential
Authors: Yonatan Sher, Nameer R. Baker, Don Herman, Christina Fossum, Lauren Hale, Xingxu Zhang, Erin Nuccio, Malay Saha, Jizhong Zhou, Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Mary Firestone
Journal; Soil Biology and Biochemistry (农林科学一区, IF2018=5.29)
Abstract: Deep-rooting perennial grasses are promising feedstocks for biofuel production, especially in marginal soils lacking organic material, nutrients, and/or that experience significant water stress. Perennial grass roots influence surrounding soil conditions and microbial activities, and produce extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) composed primarily of extracellular polysaccharides (EPSac). These polymers can alleviate microbial moisture and nutrient stress, and enhance soil characteristics through improved water retention and aggregate stability—which may in turn enhance carbon persistence. In this study we used a 13CO2 greenhouse tracer experiment to examine the effect of switchgrass cultivation on EPSac production and origin in a marginal soil with five fertilization/water treatments (control, +N, +NP, +P, low water), and compared these results with measurements of field soils collected after long-term switchgrass cultivation. Soils with added nitrogen and phosphorus (+NP) had the highest root biomass, EPSac and percentage of water-stable soil aggregates. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that root biomass and soil water potential were important determinants of soil EPSac production, potentially by controlling carbon supply and diurnal changes in moisture stress. Path analysis showed that soil aggregation was positively correlated with bulk soil EPSac content and also regulated by soil water potential. High mannose content indicated the majority of EPSac was of microbial origin and 13CO2 labeling indicated that 0.18% of newly fixed plant carbon was incorporated into EPSac. Analysis of field soils suggests that EPSac is significantly enhanced after long-term switchgrass cultivation. Taken as a whole, our greenhouse and field results demonstrate that switchgrass cultivation can promote microbial production of EPSac, providing a mechanism to enhance aggregation in marginal soils.